Fresno’s Elijah Martin was all smiles after Saturday’s preseason exhibition between the Fresno Fuego and Los Angeles Galaxy II.
The 18-year-old Galaxy II midfielder started the match, was instrumental in directing the USL PRO club to a 4-1 victory in front of 4,275 fans at Chukchansi Park, and wrapped it all up among friends and family.
“I’ve been hyped on this since last year,” Martin said.
Three years ago, before his career in Los Angeles ever took form, Martin was training with Fresno Fuego while studying at Memorial High.
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On Saturday, for the second time in his young career, he was playing against those same players who helped shape him. In last year’s exhibition, Martin came on as a second-half substitute in Galaxy II’s 2-1 win.
“Honestly, it’s just an emotional moment because these guys basically were the ones helping me out, getting me to where I am today,” he said. “I couldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Fresno Fuego grooming me up when I was a younger kid.”
Galaxy II struck first in the 11th minute on Travis Bowen’s header on a Joe Franco assist. Bowen doubled the lead in the 25th minute, beating defender Bruno Bromati one on one and blasting his shot across the goalkeeper and into the net for his second goal of the night.
Gaston Cignetti and Paul Islas got the Fuego back into the game as the former found the latter for a goal in the 55th.
That’s as close as Fresno would get as Lee Nishanian and Mackenzie Pridham both scored for Galaxy II.
Saturday’s match was the third against a professional club in two weeks for Fuego (Feb. 7 vs. Sacramento Republic FC and Feb. 18 vs. the San Jose Earthquakes).
For coach Scott Alcorn, that heavy preseason is a great starting point for the upcoming season in the Premier Development League.
“As we move forward, we got something special going on here for PDL,” Alcorn said. “We’ve got some good young players.”
The Fuego open the PDL season May 2 against Golden State Misioneros.